Punjab demands Centre early release of ₹ 2,900 crore pending payments
The pending payments include the 3% rural development fund over the total food procurement expenditure of previous two seasons in Punjab; rabi-2022 (wheat) and kharif-2021 (paddy)
The Punjab government on Monday demanded the Centre early release of accruals and pending payments to the tune of ₹ 2,900 crore against food procurement.
The demand was put forward by the state government in a meeting with Centre’s secretary of food and public distribution Sudhanshu Pandey here.
The pending recoveries include the 3% rural development fund over the total procurement expenditure of previous two seasons; rabi-2022 (wheat) and kharif-2021 (paddy). During 2021 kharif, a sum of ₹ 1,150 crore is pending to be recovered from the Centre and that of rabi 2022, at least ₹ 600 crore is pending.
Pandey reiterated the state government to amend rural development act and specify the usage of the accrual towards productive expenditure in the rural Punjab.
“We have assured the secretary that the act will be amended very shortly – probably in the upcoming budget session starting from June 24,” one of the senior officials of the food and civil supplies department, Punjab, said.
It needs mention that the provisional cost sheet received by the state department from the Centre’s ministry of food and public distribution is silent about the RDF.
The secretary was on a two-day visit to the state. He arrived Punjab on Sunday from Himachal Pradesh. Pandey also toured Nawanshahr and Jalandhar districts on Sunday, where he visited a rice mill, fair price shop and an FCI storage depot.
The state food and civil supplies department also took up the issue of 2% market fee allowed by the Centre this time in the provisional cost sheet for the rabi marketing season. He was asked that the state has been charging 3% market fee and the Centre has been paying it for past several procurements.
“We also took up the issues of cut in labour charges and dami for the arhtiyas of the state,” said an officer of the state food department, adding that until 2020, the arhtiyas were given 2.5% dami which now has been rounded off to a fixed amount and it comes to a little over 2%.
The secretary asked the state officers to take up the issues in the upcoming meeting through video conference with the officers of union ministry of food and public distribution, assuring an early resolution. The accruals other than RDF are in the tune of ₹ 1,200 crore.
Poor response to new storage scheme
The central ministry’s top officer was also apprised that the new scheme launched by the Centre for storage of food grain on ‘absolute utilisation basis’ has received lukewarm response.
“He was asked to bring changes in the scheme by offering a guarantee and he (Secretary) accepted for relooking into the scheme,” informed the state department officer.
Pandey also asked the state officials to popularise ‘mera ration’ mobile phone application so as to enable the beneficiaries for their entitled, and the nearest fair price shops. The details can be checked on the basis of beneficiaries’ Aadhar number.